Parkland County students building duplex in immersive learning program

Students in Parkland County are splitting time between the classroom and a construction site.

a group of people standing in front of a building: Grade 10 students take part in Building Futures on October 8, 2020

© Morris Gamblin/Global News
Grade 10 students take part in Building Futures on October 8, 2020

Grade 10 students from the area are building a duplex from the ground up. It’s part of a partnership between Parkland School Division and Coventry Homes, where kids are able to earn credits toward their diploma through the project.

“When they got here, it was an empty lot. Just dirt,” said Building Futures lead teacher Mike Holton. “They got involved in excavation, surveying and concrete. They’ll take it all the way to the finished stage. They should be done in June.”

Students start in the classroom, learning core classes, and then build the home alongside tradespeople.

“We transfer the classroom skills exactly. We spent a week doing measurement and Pythagorean theorem in class,” Holton said. “Then, the construction lead told the students they had to know their measurement conversion and Pythagorean theorem. The kids thought I had talked to him beforehand! It authenticated what we were doing in the classroom.”

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Holton brings a group of kids down to the site in the morning, and teaches math and construction theory to students in the afternoon.

“They are also going to get involved in the sale and the design side,” Holton explained.

Tierra Smith said she signed up for the one-year program, because she’s a “hands-on learner”.

“I thought getting my hands a bit dirty would be fun… plus it’s a new experience,” Smith said. “It’s been fun. The tradespeople are always helping us. We have our little group and we can get a lot done.”

Ben Hopkins said he knew “literally nothing” about building a house before this project. Now, he feels confident on site.

“You don’t know how much it takes to do something until you do it yourself,” said Hopkins. “That’s the biggest thing I’ve learned so far.”

Scott Pinder, site superintendent with Coventry Homes, said it’s been rewarding to work with the students.

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“It’s been fun when a student asks me a question and I have to think abut the answer. It’s second-nature to me, but it’s new to them. I’m thinking about [things in a new way].”

Pinder said even if these students don’t head into the trades after the program, they’ll leave with an important skill-set.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re in the trades, in real estate or working in an office. When you learn to interact with other people and communicate it, it just helps build up [your skill-set] for whatever you want to do in your future,” he said.

The students are expected to complete the duplex in June. The next session of the program will take applications in the spring.

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